Immanuel Lutheran Response to Re-opening Congregations                                          

Governor Bullock has laid out his “Re-opening the Big Sky” plan, describing in detail Phase 1. In that plan, he announced that places of worship can open as soon as this Sunday, April 26. Read the Directive.

Here is his guidance as found in his Executive Orders2-2020 and 3-2020:

“PLACES OF WORSHIP can become operational on or after Sunday, April 26, with reduced capacity and where strict physical distancing protocols can be maintained between non-household members. Avoid GATHERING in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.”

Pastor Molly and Council President Gaynelle Stamm in consultation with the church council has decided that that Immanuel continue on-line worship and on-line other gatherings only at least through May 3 (and possibly longer) for the following reasons:

  1. Montana Synod Bishop Laurie Jungling strongly recommends “that ELCA Congregations in the MT Synod extend the “stay at home” directive at least until Sunday, May 3, and use this extra week to prepare yourselves to reopen if that is what your pastor and council together decide is the right option for your congregation.” Read Bishop Letter
  2. We need time to assess and prepare a clear plan to re-open.
    1. Strict protocols regarding social distancing, sanitation and personal protective gear are required to “re-open” even minimally.
    2. We need to develop a cleaning and sanitation plan for gathering spaces, entry ways, bathrooms, and worship space.
    3. We need to have in place clear guidelines made for our specific circumstances and that everyone agrees to follow.
  3. Our congregation serves a largely vulnerable population: over 60 or with health issues.
  4. The best date for us to re-open is based upon our own specific circumstances and our ability to love and care for our neighbor with special consideration for the vulnerable.
  5. The pastor and council will consult over the next few weeks to make decisions and inform the congregation.

From MT Synod Bishop Jungling:

“The governor has given churches a great responsibility to step up to manage and care for our congregations wisely and with reasoned common sense during this time. As you do this I remind you yet again that our greatest commandments are to Love God and Love our Neighbors. These go hand-in-hand: when you love God you love your neighbor; when you love and take care of and protect your neighbors, you are loving God. For Christians, all the law, including the state’s laws, fall under these commandments.

 In these commandments, we know that our primary responsibility and calling from God is first and foremost to care for our neighbor, including and especially our most vulnerable populations such as those over 60 or with health issues. This means going slowly and carefully as we make decisions.”

Guidance Applicable to All Phases

Individuals should continue to practice good hygiene by adhering the following guidelines:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer, especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the inside of your elbow.
  • Disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.
  • Strongly consider using non-medical face coverings while in public, especially in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing (e.g., grocery/retail stores, pharmacies, public transportation).

People who feel sick should stay at home.

  • Do not go to work or school.
  • Contact and follow the advice of your medical provider.
  • Follow local health department guidance on isolation and quarantine.

Phase One: Individuals

The Stay at Home Directive is extended for individuals until April 26. Effective Sunday, April 26:  

All vulnerable individuals should continue to follow the stay at home guidance.

  • Members of households with vulnerable residents should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home. Precautions should be taken to isolate from vulnerable residents.
  • “Vulnerable Individuals” is defined as people over 65 years of age, people with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, or asthma, and people whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer or other conditions requiring such therapy.

All individuals, apart from members of a household, should:

  • When in public (e.g., parks, outdoor recreation areas, shopping areas), maintain at least six feet of physical distance from others.
  • Avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.
  • Minimize non-essential travel and adhere to Montana guidelines regarding quarantine.